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NDSU, JMU coaches say FCS is the best fit for their football programs

Former NDSU players Kyle Emanuel, Zach Vraa and Billy Turner arrive for the final Bison practice session at the Toyota Stadium complex in Frisco, Texas, on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. David Samson / The Forum1 / 5
Former NDSU players Joe Haeg and Jedre Cyr share a laugh after the final Bison practice session at the Toyota Stadium complex in Frisco, Texas, on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. David Samson / The Forum2 / 5
Former NDSU players Scott Soukup and Phil Hansen greet each other at the Toyota Stadium complex in Frisco, Texas, on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. David Samson / The Forum3 / 5
Former NDSU teammates Doug Van Meter and Tracy Buzick share a hug at the Toyota Stadium complex in Frisco, Texas, on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. David Samson / The Forum4 / 5
NDSU senior wide receiver RJ Urzendowski walks out to his final practice session at the Toyota Stadium complex in Frisco, Texas, on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. David Samson / The Forum5 / 5

FRISCO, Texas—It was Friday, Jan. 5, and there were four teams still playing college football. Two of them, Georgia and Alabama, are playing for the FBS national championship next Monday in Atlanta.

The other two are in Frisco.

North Dakota State and James Madison will kick it off at 11 a.m. Saturday morning to decide the Division I FCS championship. Both head coaches on Friday said the FCS is the right level for their respective programs.

"I love the stage we're on," NDSU head coach Chris Klieman said. "For us right now, North Dakota State, the playoff system works and we really enjoy it. I think our fans really like it, too. I think if you had a bowl game, that would start to get watered down, as in maybe you're not going to as good of a bowl game. Well, you're always going to the same playoff system, now what are you going to do when you get to the playoffs."

Klieman said he could foresee the day when the Power Five schools break off and do their own thing, leaving the Group of Five schools on their own. If that happens, Klieman said perhaps some FCS teams could move to that level.

It's the second straight trip to the title game for JMU and the success played into the FBS question that was posed to Dukes head coach Mike Houston. He said at the least it would have to be the perfect storm for it to happen.

"The fan base has spoken loudly and the administration is pleased with the amount of exposure and the enthusiasm of the playoff runs the last two years," Houston said.

His opinion is the JMU fan base would prefer the FCS playoffs than a lower-tier FBS bowl game.

"Compare the playoff run and playoff games at home and the crowd we had and the way JMU nation has responded," Houston said, "and then look at the smaller bowl games and what that looks like. I just think our alumni and fan base prefer this here and now."

Haeg, Emanuel among NFL Bison back in Frisco

Former NDSU players Joe Haeg and Kyle Emanuel, now playing in the NFL, were among the throng of former players in Frisco to watch the Bison play for a national championship. Haeg is an offensive lineman for the Indianapolis Colts and Emanuel is a linebacker for the Los Angeles Chargers.

Both played on four FCS national championship teams. It's become a tradition that Friday's practice before the title game serves as a reunion for former players.

"It's so special," Emanuel said. "It's awesome just to see all these guys come back. We talk about it every year, but it really is a special moment every single year.

"That's why you play the game, that's why NDSU is so special because of the men that came before you. The guy that put the jersey on before you so it's just always cool to see everyone come back."

This is the first time Haeg is going to experience the game as a fan.

"It's crazy," Haeg said. "I've been excited for this. Always coming down here and seeing all the fans, they're always having a really good time."

Polansky wins Elite 90 Award

Another title game, another NCAA Elite 90 Award winner for the Bison. Senior receiver Daniel Polansky was presented with the honor at the Division I Football Championship banquet Friday at the Frisco Conference Center.

The annual award goes to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade point average at each of the NCAA's 90 national championships. Polansky graduated in December in electrical engineering with a 4.0 GPA.

"I definitely learned a lot about my time management trying to balance football, school and also working part-time," said Polansky, from Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke High School in Minnesota.

Polansky mainly played on special teams this year, but also chipped in with five receptions in 13 games. It's the fifth time in six years the Bison have been in the FCS title game that a team member won the award.

Esley Thorton won it in the 2012 title game and Carson Wentz was the winner in each of the next three years.

True freshman Wilson making an impact

NDSU freshman running Seth Wilson back didn't even know he was going to play this season until eight games in, now he's one of the team's two healthiest options at running back heading into the FCS title game.

Wilson got his redshirt pulled against Northern Iowa with four games remaining in the regular season. He's been developed into a productive contributor since.

Wilson has rushed for 407 yards and a touchdown in 70 attempts in seven games. He's also caught six passes for 66 yards and two touchdowns.

"I came here wanting to play, really motivated to play, wanted to do whatever I needed to, to get on the field," Wilson said. "I was already mentally prepared for that. I was ready to step up and do whatever was asked of me."

Wilson said he has no regrets have his redshirt pulled eight games into the season.

"It's not really about me, it's about the team," said Wilson, who is from Holmen, Wis. "I know a lot of older guys have been here four or five years so I've got to step up and do what I need to for them. They've put a lot in this program and this is a really great program."

Anderson is listed first and Wilson is second on the Bison running back depth chart entering the championship game. Running backs Lance Dunn and Ty Brooks are both coming off injuries and it's uncertain of their playing status for the title game.

"We're going to warm up an awful lot of guys," said Klieman, most likely in reference to a few injured players. "We'll talk to Doc Piatt and (athletic trainer Bobby Knodel) and see who we think can go. Everybody will be a game-time decision."

Jeff Kolpack

Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.

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